VINCENT - When Warren junior Brandon Pahl clinched a berth at the state wrestling tournament in the Wilmington Division II District Saturday, it was an emotional moment for the family.
"We are very happy for Brandon," said Kelly Pahl, Brandon's mom. "It's very intense and nerve-racking when every match is a do-or-die situation but Brandon was able to stay focused and fight his way back (through the consolation rounds)."
The thing is, the younger Pahl (47-6) killed two birds with one stone, so to speak, when he decisioned Carlisle's Darren Milligan 6-2 in the 285-pound consolation semifinal consolation round. One, he punched his ticket to state, and two, he recorded his 100th career mat victory as a Warrior.
Photo courtesy of Kelly Pahl
Warren 285-pounder Brandon Pahl hugs his coach/father Mike Pahl after clinching a state tournament berth at district last Saturday at Wilmington. He also claimed his 100th career mat victory.
Not too shabby.
The "worst" that Pahl could do in the district third-place round was place fourth, which is what he did when he lost a 3-1 decision to Gavin Peacock of Ross.
"I'm pretty excited to get an opportunity to go to state," he said. "I know it's going to be pretty tough up there, but I'll be ready. I'm going to be training with some PHS (Parkersburg High) guys this week."
At district, Pahl got a workout, posting a 4-2 record in the two-day event. Five of the six matches went the distance.
In his first-round bout, he decisioned McClain's Dylan Trefz, 8-4.
Then, Pahl was decisioned 4-2 by Peacock, who had beaten him in last year's district tourney, in the quarterfinal. With that setback, he dropped into the consolation bracket.
In the second consolation round, Pahl bounced back in a big way when he flattened Unioto's Hunter Whiteside in 1:33. He followed that up with a 7-1 decision of Bellbrook's Charles Broderick.
The consolation semifinal was a showdown bout with a state tournament berth on the line. Winner advances, no matter what happens in the third place round, and the loser...well, he's ousted from the competition and goes home.
Pahl was determined not to return to Vincent empty handed, and he was not to be denied as he beat Milligan pretty handily.
It's easy to see why many members of the Pahl family were teary-eyed after the bout.
Brandon Pahl had one more district bout, and it was a rematch against Peacock in the third place round. Both wrestlers were assured of being state-bound, but neither wanted to finish fourth for a very good reason. Finish fourth, and you get to battle a district champion at state in your first bout.
Well, Pahl gave it his all, but came up short, dropping a 3-1 decision to Peacock. Twice, at district, the Warrior standout lost decisions to the same guy by a combined total of four points.
"You know, I almost had him (Peacock) at the end in both matches," Pahl said.
Pahl can't dwell on that. That's history. Just learn from it.
Now, it's off to state.
The Division II Championship Preliminaries are scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. today in Columbus.
Pahl's opening-round opponent is scheduled to be a guy by the name of Billy Miller of Perry.
"Brandon got the worst draw," said Warren head wrestling coach and father Mike Pahl. "This kid (Miller) won it all last year, and is ranked third in the nation."
Miller, a senior heavyweight with a record of 40-0 (including a district title), also placed fourth in the weight class in 2012.
Hey, nobody said it was going to be a cakewalk at state in any weight class. Every wrestler who's competing there is good - and a winner.
This winter, Brandon Pahl has faced some pretty good ones on the mat, like Sheridan's Evan Loughman and of course Peacock.
Miller naturally figures to be plenty tough.
But then, so is Pahl.
"We're looking for Brandon to get some experience at state and also have a good experience at state," Mike Pahl said.
Morgan's Hayden Matheney (36-8) will also be competing at state in the 126-pound weight class today. A Claymont district 2 third-placer, the Raider senior will be paired up against district runner-up St. Paris Graham Local junior Eli Seipel (45-3).
Last year, as a junior, Matheney was a state alternate.
Matheney's coach is Blake Ponchak.
Levi Congleton may be one of the best Ohio prep wrestlers not competing at state this weekend. Warren's 113-pound standout was a district qualifier but did not compete in the Wilmington event due reportedly to a concussion suffered in the sectional finals at Alexander. What a shame.
Last year, Congleton was a state qualifier at 106.
The junior grappler finished this winter with a sterling 33-2 record.
Even though Marietta High's Garrett Davis was a Wilmington district fifth-placer, the 170-pound junior standout will be headed to state - as an alternate.
What that means is that Davis, 4-2 at district, may still get an opportunity to compete, if another wrestler is injured or one doesn't make weight. He'll just have to wait and see what develops.